“There is no education like adversity.”– Benjamin Disraeli
This blog post has been created for all of those being affected by the world’s current health situation – it is for teachers, early childhood educators, care providers, families, parents and children. We are all worried about our health and safety, and understandably, we are concerned as well about how children’s learning will be impacted by the closures of schools, day cares, family resource programs and recreation centres. As an early childhood educator, I have felt a deep obligation to pull together good resources that will help parents and care providers to keep children busy, engaged and learning in ways that are intriguing and fun. This is a time for educators to share ideas that will help parents to support their children’s learning while they cannot be at school or in daycare. Though this is not my “best written” post, I share here some useful online educational resources related to the different areas of the kindergarten curriculum and that support a child’s development across the domains. I hope these help you through this difficult time. Take care of yourselves and stay safe, but also take this time to enjoy some creative approaches to teaching and learning, together.
In this section you will find resources that help with some of the fundamentals of reading and writing. Literacy specialists at OISE/UT have developed a balanced literacy program and on their web site you will find all kinds of activities and videos that will support the development of different skills such as comprehension, letter recognition, phonemic awareness, spelling and much more. There are areas for both educators and parents with explanations of how to best use these resources. Learning Without Tears will provide information on writing, pencil grasp and letter formation. There are many ways children can practice their writing skills – writing alphabet letters, familiar words, lists, letters and even poems! Reading Rockets will answer all kinds of questions about how children learn to read, and there are videos as well. Scholastic is currently offering learning units connected to different interest areas like insects, weather and animals, along with related books that can be read online. In addition to all the reading you and your child will do together, you can enjoy listening to screen actors read stories at Storyline Online. Puzzle Maker is a great website that will allow you to create your own word games and more, which can be connected to books and stories you are enjoying. You’ll find plenty in these websites to keep children interested in every aspect of literacy!
Here are some web sites that will provide insights from leading experts on preschool mathematics like Douglas Clements and Dr. Daniel Ansari of Western University, who has developed an easy to use Numeracy Screener. I have used this tool myself to assess the number skills of children in senior kindergarten and it helps you learn very quickly about a child’s number sense and those areas where you can provide additional scaffolding for their learning. The Khan Academy provides some simple activities to help children to explore and practice their number skills. For a closer look at how numeracy instruction is approached in kindergarten classrooms it is worthwhile to explore curriculum documents. A great way to get children really interested in number concepts is to make your own math games from materials you probably have around the house. Providing loose parts for children to manipulate and explore is another excellent way to get children learning in hands-on, play-based ways. There are also many picture books that are a fun way to learn about math! These materials provide a good foundation to understanding math concepts and ways to make learning about number concepts fun!
Science and Inquiry
Children are naturally curious and ask all kinds of questions – about living things, about how things work. There are many ways to feed this curiosity and the following links offer an abundance of simple strategies for turning their question in deeper inquiries. There are many experiments and activities that can be done at home that allow children to explore with each of their senses, learn to follow instructions, make predictions, form theories about why things happen and begin to view themselves as scientists! STEM (which stands for science, technology, engineering and math) experiences encourage children to make observations, ask questions, and understand that there are different components to scientific exploration and discovery. Environmental inquiries can be linked to all areas of the curriculum, as this teacher’s example demonstrates. Since going outside to enjoy nature is not being discouraged, consider exploring local nature trails, which can be a chance to develop your own outdoor inquiries! (The link provided is for the GTA. Look for information related to where you live!). A final great way to encourage scientific understanding is by cooking together. Exploring food lets children discover the food groups, practice healthy eating, observe how ingredients interact, wonder how the digestive system works… the possibilities are endless. Through these simple, hands-on experiences children will see how science happens each day in their own homes!
Music and Movement
This is one of my favourite subject areas! I have found a few resources that will help you keep your home filled with music. You probably already have your favourite radio and Internet stations, and many recordings of music that you love to listen to. You can always enrich these listening experiences by inventing your own new dance moves, or discovering music concepts as you wave colourful scarves. Listen to different kinds of music – rock, New Wave, classical, country, jazz, blues, folk, opera, Indigenous, world etc. Listen to music that focuses on specific instruments and then learn about these – brass, woodwinds, percussion, strings! The Internet is a great resource for watching videos of performances too. Learn new children’s songs from around the world. Make your own instruments using materials from around the house. Explore websites that help you to learn about different aspects of music. Read picture books about music. And keep moving; music can really encourage this, although it is not required. For very active children there are all kinds of movement activities that can be enjoyed indoors and for those who want to have calmer experiences yoga is a great alternative. MindUP is another source of great ideas about mindfulness and meditation. Music and movement are great for our bodies, minds and spirits and can make being stuck inside more interesting.
Art can give us so much joy – looking at it, learning about it, and especially creating it. I think it’s great to see so many museums and galleries offering virtual tours so that you can appreciate art from the comfort of your own home! I know I will be exploring these! I will be leafing through my books about artists and their art as well. Children discover so much as they express themselves using a variety of materials and exploring different kinds of art experiences and activities. They can learn about colour, shape, line, form, perspective and more. They can use crayons, chalk, markers, colour pencils, paints and different implements for applying paint (e.g. brushes, sponges, cardboard tubes etc.). Children can also use playdough to make 3D creations as well. If you have limited art materials at home you can make your own using simple ingredients! Creating things like paint or playdough can become a fun science experience. Through various projects children can learn about different artists and the kinds of works they created. This will open up all kinds of creative possibilities for them. And there are many wonderful picture books about artists that will be very inspiring for young children. If you find titles you like, often you can hear them read on YouTube. There are a lot of resources available to inspire creativity!
This is a very challenging time for everyone. I hope the resources collected here make things a little easier for you during this period of self-isolation. Though we may be stuck in our homes, we are all stuck in this together. So, I hope you will stay connected to each other by sharing ideas and resources here. Take care of yourselves, be kind to each other, keep learning and stay creative.
“Adversity is an opportunity for creativity, because it forces one to dig deeper and discover something new about oneself.” ~ Paul Wong